Replacing Religious Morality: Empathetic Reciprocity or Following the Golden Rule 

I recently read an interesting article entitled,” Raising Children without religion may be a better alternative.” (See the article here)

The article was a summary of a more in-depth study in the Los Angeles Times compiled from research from the PEW Foundation.

A couple of things struck me as interesting. One is that secular people like myself find no need for convoluted and complex rules for morality. No need to fast or wear certain clothing or recite certain prayers or read and interpret certain texts to find morality.

Morality is a simple concept. If one practices empathetic reciprocity, a college educated version of the golden rule, nothing else is needed.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Now I know some of you are shouting at me through your screens that this concept comes from the Bible.

Jesus said it first. Jesus said it first.

Well, not true I’m afraid. That is not the case. Like much of the allegorical stories in the Bible, from the creation to the flood to the Virgin birth of a savior these stories have existed throughout the history of man.

The concept of the golden rule has existed for millennia; Long before anyone wandered in the desert or rode a donkey into Bethlehem.

So what does religion offer? Excellent question.

Another startling statistic, there are very few atheists in prison. This despite the fact the atheism or those who have no religious affiliation are a significantly growing segment of the US population.

So if the majority of inmates, raised in a religious tradition, still commit crimes and those raised in the absence of religion do not, what does that suggest of the efficacy of religious beliefs?

The article and the research upon which it is based raise interesting questions.

In light of the growing chasm between the Christian Right in this country and the growing influence of Islam, perhaps it’s time we seek to put religion under the microscope and study its true effect.

The New Testament offered a kinder and gentler Christianity, a God 2.0 as it were. It lessened the violence of this particular religion.

Islam and other religions, still hobbled by 14th century philosophies, need to undergo a similar reformation. Failure to do this exacerbates the problem.

A full understanding of the true effect of religion becomes all the more important. It is long past the time for a cost/benefit analysis of the true cost of religion on our lives.

I fear there is a growing feeling in this country that we should alter the Golden Rule to the US Rule. “Do unto others BEFORE they do unto us.” Just listen to some of the vitriol pouring from the mouths of the candidates. They somehow see carpet bombing as an intelligent response to every threat.

I would not suggest we prevent people from holding religious beliefs. But I would suggest we dispense with our tendency to grant automatic credibility to its benefit to society, let alone base our government on religious teachings.

Since the founding of this nation, we have demanded a nod to religion. Be it with moments of silence or beginning governmental meetings with ecumenical prayers. Isn’t it about time we measured the true cost of these things.

 

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About Joe Broadmeadow

Joe Broadmeadow retired with the rank of Captain from the East Providence Police Department after serving for 20 years. He is the author of the novels Collision Course, Silenced Justice, and Saving the Last Dragon available on Amazon in print and Kindle. Joe is working o the latest in a series of Josh Williams and Harrison "Hawk" Bennett novels and a sequel to Saving the Last Dragon. In 2014 Joe completed a 2,185 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail
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